Raised along the Atlantic and the English Channel, most French mussels are moules de bouchot —mussels grown on wooden stakes which never touch the ground, so they are free of grit and away from most parasites. The word bouchot comes from the contraction of bout choat (wooden fence).
According to legend, the technique was invented by an Irishman named Patrick Walton, who was the only survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of the Charente Maritime. He planted a pair of stakes in the sea with a net, hoping to catch fish or birds, but instead found that the stakes had attracted a colony of mussel spats.
When the tide is out they resemble knobbly black tree trunks or burnt pillars of an ancient long lost city.
moules frites: the summertime classic: mussels cooked with shallots, and/or garlic, parsley and white wine, served in a pot with their liquid and a side of fries.
Images by Jack ma, Javier Lastras, Lesbats Stephane Ifremer.